By Jordan Medina
After losing their first Big West series against Hawaii last weekend, UC Irvine baseball (18-10, 3-3) bounced back from a series opening loss to win the last two games against UC Riverside (13-17, 3-3).
Friday’s game started off well for the ‘Eaters when junior infielder John Brontsema tripled in the first inning and came home on a sacrifice fly from sophomore outfielder Keston Hiura to open up scoring.
UC Riverside was able to tie up the game in the fourth, and the game would remain locked at one run apiece until the seventh inning, where the Highlanders hit a two out double to score two runs and take a 3-1 lead.
UCI had a chance to respond in the bottom half of the inning when they loaded the bases with one out. Two consecutive strikeouts ended the threat, and the two run deficit remained. In the ninth inning, the Anteaters had another chance to tie up the game or win the game after putting runners on second and third with one out, but a strikeout and a flyout ended the game. UCI struggled at the plate as they only had four hits. After Brontsema’s triple in the first, the ‘Eaters wouldn’t get another hit until the seventh inning, and at one point in the game, UCI had twelve consecutive batters retired.
Senior starting pitcher Elliot Surrey ended up with the loss, but turned in one of his best pitching performances of his career. He ended the night with ten strikeouts — a career high.
“It’s easily his best performance of this year, and we’d take that every time,” said Gillespie. “I certainly don’t think we had a better guy down there.”
Saturday’s game saw the Highlanders start scoring early, as they took a one-run lead after the first inning. UCI responded in the fourth inning to take the lead. After two singles to lead off the inning, sophomore infielder Parker Coss doubled to tie the game and put runners on second and third. The Anteaters would score on a sacrifice fly from junior catcher Alex Guenette to take the lead.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play somewhere,” said Coss. “I figured if I put it in somewhere, that run was gonna score either way.”
The Anteater arms would preserve that lead and hold on for the victory. Sophomore pitcher Cameron Bishop pitched well for the ‘Eaters, as he only allowed one run on four hits in seven and two thirds innings of work, while striking out a career-high eight batters.
“Today, my rhythm was good and I was on line and I hit my spots for the most part,” said Bishop.
After Bishop exited in the eighth inning, junior closer Calvin Faucher shut the door on the Highlanders, earning the four out save, with all four outs coming from strikeouts.
Sunday’s series finale saw the ‘Eaters get on the board early, with two runs in the first inning. After a bases-loaded walk for the first run of the game, senior Grant Palmer hit a sacrifice fly to score another run in the frame. UC Riverside would cut the deficit in half the following inning, but wouldn’t get any closer.
In the third inning, Coss would hit an RBI single to extend the lead to two runs again before UCI exploded for four runs in the fourth inning. With one out and runners on all three bases, senior infielder Mitchell Holland would hit an infield single to score a run and keep the bases loaded. On the next at bat, junior outfielder Adam Alcantara would hit a grounder to the UCR third baseman, who got the force out at home to try and start a double play to end the inning, but the catcher threw the ball away, allowing a run to come in and put runners on second and third. The next batter, Palmer, would single in both runners to push the lead to six runs.
UC Riverside would score two runs in the next inning, but the Anteater bullpen would prevent a comeback, as they only allowed two runs and four hits. The ‘Eaters would score another run in the seventh on a wild pitch for the last run of the game and the final deficit.
The Anteaters now begin their longest road trip of the season, with eight straight games away from home. UCI returns to Anteater Ballpark on April 25 to play UNLV.